Offbeat 3 ways Trump could lower drug prices

16:36  10 may  2018
16:36  10 may  2018 Source:   cbsnews.com

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President Trump is promising to unveil his plan to lower prescription drug prices any day now. There are 3 ways he can do that right now without Congressional approval. They include speeding the process to get generic drugs to market and making more drugs available over the counter.

“He’s going to get those prescription drug prices way down,” Trump said as he introduced Alex Azar at the White House Monday. You know the system. And you can do it because it’s wrong.” Everyone seems to want lower drug prices .

Consumers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurers, middlemen, Wall Street analysts and others are waiting for and wondering about President Donald Trump's twice-postponed speech focusing on lowering prescription drug prices. It's now scheduled for Friday.

While much as been said about what the president may or may not propose -- on-script or off -- here's a look a three ways the government could help lower the cost of prescriptions, even in the face of opposition from various interested parties. 

Direct government negotiation for Medicare-covered drugs

Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers routinely negotiate with drugmakers for big discounts on list prices. But the government, by law, cannot enter into such negotiations, even though Medicare Part D is a huge payer for all types of medicines. 

Trump to Drop Call for Medicare to Negotiate Lower Drug Prices

  Trump to Drop Call for Medicare to Negotiate Lower Drug Prices Breaking a campaign promise, President Trump will not push for the plan, which was popular with voters but not other Republican politicians, when he speaks on Friday about soaring prescription costs.WASHINGTON — President Trump will lay out on Friday a broad strategy to reduce prescription drug prices, but in a break from one of his most popular campaign promises, he will not call for Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers, senior administration officials said.

Although President-Elect Trump wants to lower drug prices , he may not know about a tool he can use to not only push prices down, but also lower medical costs. It’s a way to improve health care for Americans that doesn’t involve the Obamacare mess – or Congress.

Led by Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Al Franken (Minn.), 17 Democrats and two independents on Tuesday sent a letter to Trump outlining ways the two sides could collaborate to lower drug costs: allowing the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices

That law didn't stop then-candidate Trump from pushing for government negotiations when he was on the campaign trail, when he said doing so could save some $300 billion a year.  

Now it's a different story. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former drug company executive, and Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, are against direct government negotiation. They argue that robust negotiations are already taking place between the private insurers that provide Medicare Part D coverage and pharmaceutical companies. 

It would be better, their thinking goes, to create an environment of more competition with more drugmakers providing alternative drugs so true price competition can exist, explained Ian Spatz, former pharmaceutical industry lobbyist and senior adviser at Manatt Health.   

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  Trump to propose Medicare drug plans share some manufacturer rebates with patients The plan, set to be released Friday, includes a number of provisions including require Medicare Part D plan share rebates with patients.The plan, set to be released Friday, will require Medicare Part D plans share a portion of discounts they receive from drug manufacturers with patients, the officials said. It will include ways to allow the government to better negotiate, they said, though it will stop short of allowing Medicare to directly work with manufacturers on prices.

In fact, Trump has made many grand claims that he will bring drug prices “ way down.” So what could an administration serious about lowering drug costs do? For one, it could allow importation of more affordable drugs from Canada.

ASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday boldly reversed an Obama-era policy that supporters said had helped lower prices for some costly drugs . The policy centers on so-called biosimilar drugs

"There's no guarantee that direct government negotiation would lead to lower prices," said Spatz. "The government may not get the prices right. If it prices too low, there's no incentive to create new drugs we still need. And as we've seen in other areas of the government, prices could be set too high."

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump is expected to embrace incremental changes in government drug price intervention. For instance, the administration may be willing to negotiate Medicare prices for costly physician-administered drugs such as many expensive cancer drugs that doctors now purchase direct from wholesalers. And you may see some government intervention on extreme cases of price increases for common drugs such as various forms of insulin, said Spatz.

Import cheaper drugs from Canada

This is yet another point Mr. Trump made on the campaign trail, saying consumers should be allowed to buy less expensive drugs from Canada and other countries. But that has changed dramatically. Administration officials and health care experts have balked at this idea, citing safety concerns. They say it isn't always known where drugs imported from Canada came from originally and if they're authentic.

Trump lays out his plan to tackle high drug prices

  Trump lays out his plan to tackle high drug prices President Donald Trump spoke Friday about ways to lower the price of prescription drugs. Trump focused on finding ways to increase competition, get more negotiating power, and finding ways to lower pharmaceutical list prices as well as the out-of-pocket costs patients are facing according to senior administration officials familiar with the speech.

President Trump outlined in his budget three ways his administration would lower prescription drug prices . But if states could decide which drugs were covered, they could theoretically obtain even lower prices .

Pricing for the American people will come way down!" But Trump already has a weapon he could deploy to cut the prices of at least some "Perhaps we as a country would rather have lower drug prices and a little less innovation," Ellison said. Doggett hopes Trump might just take that deal.

Nonetheless, the idea resonates with several states, including Utah, Oklahoma, Vermont and West Virginia, all of which have begun legislative efforts to allow the importation of less expensive Canadian drugs, which is currently illegal. Individual states would be responsible for making sure the drugs are safe and that patients are saving money.

In recent weeks the Trump administration has called out several trading partners that regulate drug prices, including many European countries, saying they're not paying their fair share for U.S. drug company innovation and are therefore increasing the cost of drugs in the U.S. This stance is adding to global trade tensions.

On the other side of the coin, some experts are pushing the idea of more open drug trade. One proposal: The FDA should allow foreign makers qualified to sell generic drugs in Canada, England, France and other countries to sell generics in the U.S. too.

Offer discounts directly to consumers

Earlier this year, Aetna (AET) and United Health (UNH) announced they would pass discounts they receive from drugmakers directly to some consumers. Pharmaceutical companies often offer rebates to insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to ensure their drugs are included in coverage. Traditionally, insurers have not passed these savings to consumers, instead claiming they use them to stabilize premiums. Along these same lines, President Trump announced he would like to see drug company rebates passed directly to seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D coverage.

The details of the Aetna and Humana announcements aren't yet clear, including how many consumers would be affected and how much they would save. But allowing consumers to gain more from industry discounts may be an important step in overall savings. 

Trump wishes Americans a happy Mother's Day .
President Trump wished Americans a happy Mother's Day in a video message on Sunday. In the 80-second video, the president spoke about his own mother, as well as the mothers throughout U.S. history whose "love and courage and devotion" he said have helped shape the nation.Happy Mother’s Day!!! pic.twitter.com/zw71dnT7TJ— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018"America's strength has come from the love and courage and devotion of our mothers," he said. "Through their grit, determination and incredible spirit, they pioneered the West and settled the frontier.

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